Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It Might Have Been the Naked Men

Several weeks ago, when the weather got nice again, I vaguely wondered what power had pushed for the early spring. This is a retrospective post.

The Naked Man Festival, or Hadaka Matsuri, was February 20th at Saidaiji, a temple outside of Okayama City. The festival is held every year, but I think this year was the 500th..!

You, who know Aki Matsuri already, are seasoned veterans to the fundoshi, which is what participants in the Naked Man Festival wear (so, no, they are not fully naked.. they also wear tabi).

My fellow expats and I all kind of assumed “Naked Man Festival” was a culturally insensitive translation/interpretation of this rite in which dudes run around wearing so little.. but actually, we were informed that that’s what Hadaka Matsuri means in English. And the reason there is a "”naked” festival in February is just that—it’s February, and you gotta be a real badass to strip down in the mountains of Okayama (or anywhere in Japan, frankly) in February. Or, you have to be really drunk. I suspect both.

So the runners do runs through the streets near the temple, then gather on the main stage area to await the dropping of the “Lucky Stick.” They then scramble and fight for this (these, I think.. I don’t know how many sticks they drop, though) stick until someone gets it out of the designated area alive. He then becomes Lucky Man!

Women aren’t allowed to participate, and I couldn’t have, what with Jermaine and all (zannen). But I heard it can be a real bloodbath, especially if you lose your tabi. You take a beating either way, but you can say goodbye to the skin on the tops of your feet without those little socks. Also, at some point, participants all run through some water. Or are sprinkled with water that is perhaps holy. In February.

In order to make it out without someone taking the lucky stick from you, you kind of have to have teammates to block for you. It’s basically a big game of naked, drunk football. Or Spartan Madball, more like.

So for me, the festival meant stall food (which was regretted almost instantly.. but I think it was the om-soba, not my tako-on-a-stick) and plenty of bare asses, which is an automatic win for an evening out.

Fried octopus on a stick. It doesn’t get much better. Though the beef was pretty good…

Curse you om-sobaaaa…

Some foreigners, post-fest

The Lucky Man!!

And there he goes…

Though tattoos are banned (to prevent Yakuza participation I imagine), foreigners are welcome to participate. I’ve been told the first foreigner to hang on to a Lucky Stick was our very own JETHardJ:

stock photo

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